September 1, 2016
There is a growing movement in the U.S. towards nature-based learning. The curriculum focuses on staying outside all year to prepare kids for the traditional classroom setting.
Research suggests the exposure to nature helps children become life-long learners.
Forest Gnomes is a nature-based program at Natick Community Organic Farm.
From September through June, a small group of 3- to 6-year-olds spend mornings in a small glen, a short walk from the farm. The kids are outside in rain, shine and snow.
Teacher Audrey Fergason said there’s an old saying in nature education: There’s no such thing as bad weather. There’s only improper clothing.
The main focus of the program is free play with a purpose.
“Everything they’re doing in the woods, from balancing rocks or picking up sticks, all of those build readiness for an academic program,” Fergason said. “It’s done without pencils.”
Several studies show benefits from exposure to nature, including students with improved academic performance, better problem solving skills and more creative thinking.